Home Country Edging from 2013 and into 2014January 3, 2014
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We in the Walla Walla Valley enjoyed several days of heavy, decorative freezing fog prior to Christmas and into the new year.
On the day after Christmas, with a soupy fog limiting visibility to 20 yards, I walked Nora at Mill Creek. We started at the WW Community College parking lot. I collected the usual 100 or so images of frosted plants and winter birds as we meandered beyond Rooks Park and back.
I could see the mergansers and herons at mid-stream.
But they appeared to be gray shadows in the LCD window. Yet, I expected a bit of contrast, etc., in Photoshop Elements 12 would salvage some of them.
I hoped it would, especially for the images of common mergansers running across the water on webbed yellow feet to launch. For some foggy reason, I had several opportunities to catch them in action.
The photos, in fact, turned out sharp. And the heron's colors popped out with more saturation than usual.
We took our son Michael home to Kennewick on the Sunday after Christmas.
On the road soon after breakfast at Smith's, I regretted not taking a camera to photograph the frosted scenes, especially those where fog-flocked trees stood watch at country homes to convey a surreal, or unreal, Norman Rockwell imagery.
The usual dark, skeletal roadside tree limbs and the tall golden rye-grass stalks, drooped heavy with snow-like frozen crystals.
Then, before heading home again, Darlene and I lunched at a Red Robin. She had Fish & Chips with a diet coke.
I had the Red, White and Bleu Salad (lettuce, walnuts, apple, cranberries, grilled chicken, etc.) and a Blue Moon.
Weather reports at home suggested that the freezing-fog conditions would last until Wednesday.
That would be good.
I set the camera gear on the landing to be ready for a frosty Monday.
I awoke to a Chinook-warmed 40-plus degree morning with wet grass, damp sidewalk and naked frostless trees in the yard.
I supposed, however, that 10-15-miles east, in the Touchet River Valley along Highway 12, and the parallel back roads south of the highway, frozen fog would still decorate the flora.
And it did.
Nora and I made a nearly 60-mile loop to the west and back. I stopped often to capture images of the more dramatic frosted scenes.
We toured the Whitman Mission and captured more fog-bound images. We met a young couple from Seattle. Their smiles and friendliness to Nora, lit up the gray afternoon.
Later, we anticipated 2014 with a New Year’s Eve late lunch at El Sombrero on Second Street. I had the Vegetarian Burrito with a glass of Sangria; Darlene had the Colorado Burrito with a diet Coke.
Some celebration, I guess, but on New Year's Day we rose clear-eyed and bushy tailed, dined at Smith’s again (Me: One egg over easy, crisp hash browns, toast, coffee; Darlene: One-half order of eggs Benedict, water), and motored through the valley toward McNary Dam and the nearby nature area.
Near Wallula Junction, Darlene spotted whitetail deer off to the right.
“There’s a big buck,” she said.
I didn’t see them, and hesitated to stop amidst the ambient traffic.
A quarter-mile later, however, I swerved into a pullout and went back. We saw the deer briefly in a swale. I stopped, took a camera and crossed the road.
I climbed the bank, with the grassy hump between me and the deer. I topped the hump cautiously and found the large buck and three does easily within image-capturing range.
Later, at the nature area below McNary Dam, we saw two bald eagles, one mature and one not so much.
Many birds dived and preened on the ponds, mostly mallards and mergansers. I saw a male wood duck too distant to photograph.
On the next two warm January days, Nora and I walked at Mill Creek, from the project office upstream and south to Bennington Lake on sun-warmed muddy trails.
On the stream we saw the usual mergansers (one launching), mallards, and a less usual golden eye, but no herons.
Moving away from the stream, we saw a backlit kestrel from a bluff overlooking the lake. We made a long circle and eventually approached the bird with the sun at our backs. We found the kestrel, busy watching the ground-sniffing Nora, perching in place until we drew too close for its comfort.
And it flew.
On the trek back to the stream, after having seen two chickadees but no woodpeckers among the line of rosehip bushes above the overflow channel, two quick downy woodpeckers flitted across the path and into a close-by tree.
So, 2013 ended well and 2014 began with more beneficial Bennington Lake walks, although Nora as usual picked up enough mud to require heavy brushing by Darlene.
After the walk and the brushing, however, she (Nora) lay like a small fuzzy log on the couch.
Me, too. Well, less small.